Last week, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued a permit to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) regulating stormwater runoff from state-owned highways and facilities in urbanized areas of the state.
WSDOT currently has a program in place that addresses stormwater runoff from state highways, rest areas, park and ride lots, ferry terminals, and maintenance facilities. The new state permit brings WSDOT into alignment with municipal stormwater permit regulations in Washington’s most populated areas.
Untreated stormwater is unsafe for people, fish, and wildlife.
It degrades water quality, can contaminate drinking water supplies, and harms aquatic habitats. Pavement, which is common in urban settings, prevents stormwater from penetrating into the ground where it can be naturally treated before entering underground and surface water supplies.
“The state is part of the stormwater problem and the state is working to be part of the solution,” said Ecology director Jay Manning.
“As local governments are stepping up to their stormwater permit requirements, this permit shows how the state is taking steps to enhance and increase its efforts to control and prevent stormwater pollution from its highways and facilities.”
Both Ecology and the WSDOT agree that the state faces high costs and much work to meet the requirements of the new permit. Both agency heads agree that they will need the Legislature’s help to sort out funding.
“WSDOT will be capturing, treating and testing stormwater from the state highway system at a higher level than in the past to protect our waters from pollution while also maintaining and improving our state’s transportation system” said Paula Hammond, Washington Transportation Secretary.
The new WSDOT permit will require the agency to manage stormwater runoff to a greater degree, over a larger geographic area.
It replaces WSDOT’s existing National Pollution Discharge Elimination (NPDES) coverage, which has been in effect since 1995.
Prior to coming under the new permit, WSDOT applied the maintenance and design standards of its Highway Runoff Manual (HRM) to stormwater facilities statewide.
In coming under the new permit, the agency updated the manual as well as its 1997 Stormwater Management Plan. This updated manual and plan reflect best practices in stormwater management.
They outline the stormwater treatment and flow-control facilities WSDOT needs to build into projects to better protect water quality. They also identify requirements for maintaining, testing, and mapping stormwater facilities.